Documenting a Human Tragedy :: Documentary Review

The story of India's green revolution has a dark side. It is the shade of dark crimson, the color of blood. Between 1996 and 2006 100,000 farmers committed suicide in Vidarbha region in the north Indian state of Maharashtra. Since June of 2005 two to three farmers take their lives every day. The seeds of this problem were sown with the introduction of the green revolution in the mid 60's. Farming in India was largely organic, needing little investment. Farmers would use the seeds that they saved from the previous harvest. But the green revolution changed all that, now farmers had to buy seeds, fertilizers and pesticides by borrowing money at high interest rates from Sahukar's (private money lenders) and in the course of time farmers were trapped in huge debt. Such disasters don't go unnoticed--they rarely do. Headlines trumpeted, relief poured in before going to bed. One night during the and so did the politicians with their 'packages'.

Now just few years on, this issue is forgotten by the mainstream media. Suma Josson, a journalist turned filmmaker, documents the problem that took many years in the making. In her latest documentary film, "I Want my Father Back" she asks a few crucial questions. I managed to catch this documentary at the recent KAFISO Third National Short and Documentary Film Festival. The documentary managed to walk away with the first prize that it so richly deserves.

The film deals with the disastrous way in which India's green revolution pushed traditional farming practises aside in a mad dash to increase crop yield. New hybrid seeds were introduced with heavy subsidies. Fertilisers and pesticides were introduced at low prices, and attractive loans were offered for those who could not afford to buy them. Cash crops like cotton and soya soon replaced the food crops. Farmers went into debt to manage their homes and farms and were getting low prices for their crops largely due to corrupt and inefficient marketing practices of farmers co-operatives. Trapped in deep debt, the farmers resorted to taking their own lives.

Josson's film deals in detail with every facet of this problem, effects of globalization, economic policies of successive governments that helped create new markets for large multinational corporations. The menace of costly Bt cotton seeds with their false claims of high yield, its adverse effects on environment and the health of cotton industry workers. Lack of measures to protect and promote the indigenous seed variates that are resistant to pests and well adapted to local conditions. Also the erosion of traditional farming method of cultivating heterogenous crops which provided a safe net in case of single crop failure. Perhaps it is the director's early training as a journalist that played a large role in her investigative approach. The documentary provides a revealing mix of scientific evidence, farmers' insights and experiences, along with the voices of activists.

The mass suicides of farmers is not the problem of Vidarbha alone. In the other Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab farmers are commiting suicide in large numbers. Every day we hear similar stories from other parts of the world. This documentary forces the audience to think and to ask itself: Is this the state of the world to come?

Recently published in film review section of IISE Journal. You can watch the documentary online in an older post I Want My Father Back

Running Ubuntu Mobile Internet Device (MID) Edition

A big thanks goes to Rad for poking me to try out Ubuntu MID. Running the Ubuntu MID in virtual environment is pretty straight forward. Have a look at the Installing Ubuntu MID in Virtual Box.

The screenshots below show Ubuntu MID running gnome-terminal and firefox web browsers.

Ubuntu Mobile Internet Device (MID) About Dialog box Ubuntu Mobile Internet Device (MID) Gnome Terminal running python  Ubuntu Mobile Internet Device (MID) web browser

These presentation slides from CELF Embedded Linux Conference 2008 provides a quick overview about Ubuntu MID.

Shivkumar Sharma Santoor Concert

Theo and me braved the thunderstorm to attend the opening day of 24th National Convention of SPIC MACAY here in Thiruvananthapuram. The evening started with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Santoor concert, it brought back so many memories. It was pure delight to hear the maestro play raag megh to the sound of the rain outside. Certainly, it is an experience that I would cherish for a long time to come.

Shivkumar Sharma Santoor Concert at AKJ Hall, trivandrum Shivkumar Sharma Santoor Concert

Ubuntu 9.04 UXA Graphics Acceleration

When I switched on my Karmic development laptop the X server reverted back to low-res. Guess its time to start UXA testing. Right now UXA is very unstable and presents strange problem like this one. The fonts are totally messed up in Firefox, and gedit. Any ideas what might be the problem?

X messes up fonts in Firefox

Update: 25 May, 2009 Found that this problem is triggered when I restart the computer from hibernation.

National Workshop on Web Accessibility, Bangalore June 2009

Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) has been a forerunner in advocating for a national policy for electronic and web accessibility for persons with disabilities. In addition to seeking a policy reform in this matter, we are also bolstering our advocacy efforts by organising trainings and workshops at no cost for web developers across the country to spread awareness and build capacity in this area in both the public as well as the private sectors. Our first workshop, which was organised jointly with UN Solution Exchange and supported by the NIXI, took place in Ghaziabad earlier this year.

We are organising our second workshop on web accessibility for developers at Bangalore from June 5th-7th, 2009. The workshop will take place at the CIS office on Cunningham Road. Registration is free of charge. If you or any of your colleagues are involved in developing websites and are interested in making your websites accessible to all groups in society, including persons with disabilities (approximately 71 million Indians and 6% of the total world population), please register for this workshop at the earliest.

The trainers are experts in this field from Delhi and Bangalore and have been working in the field of accessibility for many years.

For more information and registration, please mail Nirmita or call: 080 40926283.

send a twitter messages from command line with bti

bti allows you to send twitter messages right from the command line. It works with both and To use this program install the Ubuntu package with the same name (sudo apt-get install bti).

I was able to post a tweet message using bti within few minutes. The configuration is easy and straight forward. Have look at the bti example config file to get started quickly (/usr/share/doc/bti/examples/bti.example). The url shorting feature (with --shrink-urls option) however didn't work as intended though. Anyway its wonderful to be able to tweet from the command line, bti does have some pretty interesting features.
And don't forget to follow my tweets @playingwithsid.

About Bti micro-blogging command line tool

bti provides an easy way to send tweet messages direct from the command line or any script. It reads the message on standard input and uses the account and password settings either from the command line options, or from a config file, to send the message out.
It's primary focus is to allow you to log everything that you type into a bash shell, in a crazy, "this is what I´m doing right now!" type of way, letting the world follow along with you constant moving between directories and refreshing your email queue to see if there´s anything interesting going on.